Welcome to Day 20 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers.
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom. Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him. Sit with God in this moment. Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.
Today’s Parenting Pointer
You may wonder why I waited until day 20 to share the secret of taming tantrums with you. If any of you have been a parent for more than a year, my bet is you have experienced a full blown tantrum (um, your child’s, I mean). These emotional outbursts don’t necessarily end after the “terrible” twos. They morph into more refined forms, but still, a teen can throw their version of the tantrum by pouting, slamming a door or just sitting around muttering “no fair.”
No matter the age of your child, a tantrum is your child’s way of saying, “I don’t like the answer I got and I am going to let you know how much!” or “I want my way and I won’t quit until I get it!” I am sitting here wondering all the things you may have tried to redirect or discipline your children in the middle of a tantrum to try to get them to stop. I want to remind you of the posts I wrote on days three, four, five and six of this series which cover the basic emotional needs of a child. When their needs are met, children are far less likely to have any misbehavior including the famed tantrum.
Let’s say you have met your child’s basic needs to feel loved, to have constructive activity, to feel confident and to feel a sense of worth and they still are wailing like a tug boat all the way through the supermarket about the treat they tried to grab off the shelf while you said, “no” and wheeled on at the pace of an Indy 500 driver. You want to borrow a bag from the checker just to discretely wear on your head as you get the last few items you need and skedaddle out of the store knowing in this moment to all the onlookers you are “that mom.”
That is what we will call a “public tantrum.” I handle these a bit differently than I do the private tantrum (at home). When my children and I are about to enter a situation which I know will cause some form of temptation to come their way and in the process we could end up with a scene on our hands, I talk them through what to expect before we even enter the store. I say something like, “You know we are going in to get only what is on our list. I expect you to be helpers and the more help you give, the sooner we will get out of the store, then we can get home and you can play with your friends (or whatever they are looking forward to after the trip).”
I have been foolish enough, for example, to take my then four-year-old shopping after we had a long week and were out at a park all morning. He had a meltdown in the smallest store in our town right when two moms I knew just happened to be stopping there to get their weekly groceries. He was beyond the pale and I was holding him trying to keep him from flailing items off the shelves. What I had to do was abandon my cart and just go to the back of the store where they have a little waiting area with chairs outside the restroom. We sat together and I held him until he calmed and we were able to resume shopping. In this situation, I couldn’t do what I do when one of my children is having a “private” tantrum in the comfort of our own home. I had to consider the other people around us and the immediate need to help my son regain composure.
When we are home, I respond to tantrums totally differently. I ignore them. There is a fancy word psychologists use called “extinction” which means you make a behavior go away by not paying any attention to it or rewarding it in any way. You will be amazed at how extinction works to eliminate tantrums (at any age). When tantrums no longer get a pay-off, your child will realize that they are wasting their effort and they will just peter out and stop. Of course, tantrums are different from crying from hurt, fear or sadness. Those feelings call for our mother heart to give comfort and care. But, when a child is just plain throwing a fit, the best thing we can do is to let it run its course and not give in.
What I have done, to be fair to my boys, is to tell them in advance that I just won’t answer or respond to tantrums. I tell them I will talk with them when they are calm. Fits don’t fly. For those of you new to this ignoring thing, it is not for the faint of heart. You will want to do something, but you have to hold on. Your child will unfortunately get louder and more intense before they give up. But, when they see that you mean what you say, and that you aren’t going to answer them while they are in the throes of a tantrum, they will get through it.
Keep in mind that you are teaching them how to go about responding to situations that don’t go their way. And remember, do remember, we aren’t talking about ignoring your children’s needs or their emotions. We are ignoring their fit so they can learn to express themselves in more appropriate ways. Once they are calm, you can go to them, comfort them and help them talk about what was upsetting them.
Rejoice in the Lord
Over the next five days I want to talk to you about a very helpful portion of Scripture. Philippians – the book of joy with a prescription for how to handle anxiety right in the middle. Paul gives us amazing encouragement in the 4th chapter of Philippians and I want to break it down so we can savor it and work it into our day to day lives. I need this as much as you.
“Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice.”
What a statement. We could breeze by it like we do when someone sees us on the street and says, “Hi, how are you?” and we say, “Fine,” and keep walking. Fine. Rejoice in the Lord. Always. Check. Wait, wait, wait. Let’s look at this a moment. God, through Paul, is inviting us to find joy in Him. Another translation of the word, chairō is to thrive. Isn’t it amazing that as we find our joy in Him, we simultaneously thrive!
Let’s take this the other direction. What do you try to find your joy in? In yourself? In a relationship? In your children? In money, your home, a hobby, your church, in chocolate (I hear you)? All those things bring goodness and God is for that. But, truly, when we don’t find our joy in Him, we aren’t going to find real joy anywhere else on earth. All things outside of Him fall flat in the joy department. Yet, when we find our joy in Him we can enjoy all other things as gifts from Him.
And, then there is this little word in the middle of that verse – always. Always. At all times we are to find our joy in the Lord. I know there are times we are surprised by joy or when joy is right there because the circumstances are in our favor. What about when things just stink and we are gasping for sanity? What about when our emotions tell us there isn’t much hope and God seems light years away? What about when someone betrays us or we lose a relationship? What about in tragedy? Always is a tall order. I have a friend that told me the cup isn’t half-empty or half-full – from God’s perspective it is full to overflowing and we just have to trust that goodness when we can’t tangibly feel it.
So, let’s not breeze by this important introduction to this portion of scripture. Let’s marinate in it a while. Let’s make a point this day, even for the whole week, even as a lifelong habit, to find our joy in Jesus – always – even when the kids are fighting, the laundry is piling up, we have more to dos than days in the week and we feel like something is going to burst. Let’s find our joy in Him because only there can it truly be found.
I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery. If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here. Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher. And, as always, I do love hearing from you. Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you.